Sometimes A Hill: Poems written during a time of trouble

by David Gilbert

August 11, 2016

I have been unwell. These are some poems written during a period of deep anxiety. I hope  you get something from them.


At First

You were still a girl
when you set out
believing in nothing

but your arms, the pull of oars
and the small islands beyond the bay,
promising, absolutely promising

you’d be safe
and not go too far
in the weathered boat.

You rowed without thought
the light rain, at first
delighting your skin

before the sky’s battering
brought down a mauve blanket
in front and behind your blinded eyes.

And you thought of the Ark,
of granny looking out from the shore,
how water can be as heavy as a burial

how a touch of rain can be a prophesy,
even when a moment – a lifetime - ago,
you did not believe.

And what promises mean
and your lack of plans.
Then there’s the rocking and jerk and tip

and suck of cold.

You don’t remember
the speedboat that brought you back
that, at first, your granny believed

could only be bad news
or of the moment after letting go
to nature, chance, God, whatever.




He warned of the fires
that would rip at the mountainside
and spill into town
where the buildings were ready to burn.

The weather had been ugly hot
the eucalyptus on the hills like tinder.
The government didn't do much
and the locals were asleep.

There was an arsonist on the loose
and the lazy firefighters on strike.
This island would never learn.
It deserved everything it got.

But last night, I woke
to the rain’s whispering fall.
Sometimes everything is set
yet nothing happens.



Sometimes A Hill (A semi-found poem)


There is no universal definition of a mountain. Elevation, volume, relief, steepness, spacing and continuity have been used as criteria for defining a mountain.

Sometimes a

In the Oxford English Dictionary, a mountain is defined as a “natural elevation of the earth surface rising more or less abruptly from the surrounding level and attaining an altitude which, relative to the adjacent elevation, is impressive or notable”.

Sometimes a hill

The eleven largest countries without a ‘mountain’ are The Gambia, Kuwait, Moldova, The Netherlands, Uruguay, Guinea-Bissau, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus.

Sometimes a hill is

The highest point in The Netherlands is 321 metres and is shared by Belgium and Germany

Sometimes a hill is sad

Het Hogeland (The High Country) in the North, near Groningen is only a few metres higher than the surrounding land.

Sometimes a hill is sad that

In Phoenix, Arizona, there are hills called Camelback Mountain and South Mountain.

Sometimes a hill is sad that it

In Mississippi one day, a teacher told his primary school kids about Mount Everest. One of the kids asked him what a mountain was. He tried explaining that it’s like a huge pile of rocks that’s bigger than anything they’d seen, and one kid raised a hand and said ‘so, it’s bigger than a car?”.

Sometimes a hill is sad that it is not

In Lithuania, the words for ‘hill’ and ‘mountain’ are pretty much interchangeable. And a mountain can be called a mountain if it has something of interest on top, like a fort or monument.

Sometimes a hill is sad that it is not a

In Latvia, a mountain is almost anything that you need to put noticeable effort to walk onto. It's highest peak is Mount Gaizins at 311 metres.

Sometimes a hill is sad that it is not a mountain

And, while Denmark proper is relatively flat, the Danish Crown owns Greenland (which has mountains).

Sometimes a mountain is sad that it is not a hill



The Walking

So we get to where we get to
turn around to look how far we’ve come
along the ridge.

We can still just make out the café
where we had lunch a long time ago.
The buzzard in the chrome blue sky

tells that this is where we got to
last time, when the walking
was far easier

when there was somewhere else to get to
and the buzzard told of more
than its circling.



I was trying not to think about anything
and panicking
every time my mind went blank

and telling myself I was allowed
to think about anything
and that I shouldn’t panic

if I thought about anything scary
or if my mind went blank.
Then I thought about nougat

which is odd
because I don’t particularly like nougat
or dislike it.

I have no memory associated with nougat
except the banal association
that it gets stuck between your teeth.

So perhaps it is a metaphor.
But that didn't seem to strike true
so I thought about it some more

and could imagine
the long pink boxes of nougat
we sometimes bring back from Finland

that are quite nice
but nothing to write home about.
And that’s about it.

So I’m still thinking about nougat
and why I thought about nougat
and not getting very far.



The White Table

Instead of starting your day
you might just want to head out
into the garden

where a spider waits on thought
and the white table is dusted with leaves
that have fallen in the night.

From there, barefoot on the grass
dare to look up at who knows
what freightless birds

travel without you across
the immeasurable sky. Then
down, then feed the cat.


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2 comments on “Sometimes A Hill: Poems written during a time of trouble”

  1. DavidJust to say I hope you are back in good health. I've just come infrom a frustrating meeting of Patient Partners with the Trust. It is worth it all for the patients we serve.Geoff

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